Monday, 11 May 2015
After the General Election Result - What Now for the Greens?
Even though I sensed a re-run of the 1992 opinion polling failure in the final week of the campaign, I am still somewhat in shock about the result. The prospect of five more years of a full blown Tory government fills me with foreboding. But we have to pick ourselves up and build on what was not a bad result for the Green party itself.
The Green party saw its vote quadruple in 2015 from the last general election in 2010, to 1.1 million. Under our First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system, this vote yielded only one MP. With other smaller parties (and maybe even Labour now), a campaign for a fairer system beckons. Beyond this, our strategy for the new Parliament is pretty clear. This is, to carry on doing what we have been doing, which specifically falls into two broad areas.
There will be no shortage of issues about which to campaign on in the coming years. We know about TTIP and there is a further expected slashing of many welfare benefits. It also looks like the Tories will scrap the Human Rights Act and there will be a referendum on our membership of the European Union. There are the upcoming climate talks in Paris. I’m sure there will be many more issues to campaign on too. We need to have a very visible presence in these campaigns both nationally and locally and non-violent direct action may be appropriate as part of these campaigns. I stress non-violent because we don’t want any repeat of the scenes outside Downing Street on Saturday, where a minority of the protesters clashed with the police. It is almost always counter-productive to be associated with violent protest.
There will be opportunities in campaigns to cooperate with the trade unions in many cases which should help us to build up relationships, at least with the rank and file members, and perhaps even some of the leaderships of the unions.
Indeed, the Greens can be the glue that binds the various campaigns together, into a single movement for change.
Apart from joint campaigning with other parties of the left on issues, I can’t see much scope for cooperation at elections. Left Unity/TUSC got a feeble vote across the country and are largely irrelevant at elections. The Socialist Party who are the main drivers of TUSC are not ones for cooperation with the Greens and spend most of their time criticising us.
Labour and the Lib Dems will also want to get those votes lost to the Green party back, so again outside of campaigning with perhaps elements of these parties I can’t see any electoral alliances here either. Labour in particular are likely to tack to the right, and the Blairites have already started making plenty of noise about recapturing the fabled ‘centre ground’.
I expect this view will prevail within Labour, even though the parties that rejected the ‘centre ground’, the SNP, UKIP and the Greens gained the most votes at the election (if not always seats). The Lib Dems, who did make a pitch for the centre were completely routed.
Of course there probably is some hope for electoral cooperation with the SNP in Scotland and Plaid Cymru in Wales.
There will be more space on the political left when Labour does tack to the right, which we should in theory be able to occupy. This Labour strategy will not be welcomed by many of the trade unions, which again presents opportunities for the Green party.
I know electoralism is not universally popular in Green Left, but the election shows that to really attract large numbers of voters in particular constituencies you need first to win several council seats in the area. Look at Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion, our one MP. Before she was elected in 2010 we already had double figures of local councillors. You need to demonstrate to the voters that voting Green is not a wasted vote under FPTP, because even if they like our policies and candidates, they are likely to play safe and vote for one of the larger parties.
The next few years are going to be tough, particularly for the most vulnerable in our country. The Tories only have small majority in Parliament though, and there is a decent chance the Tories will tear themselves apart over Europe (again). We need to mobilise as many of our new members as possible in campaigns and election activity. When the next election comes, we have to be ready to produce an even stronger result than we achieved this time.